Developing Fluid, Creative,
and Constructive Thinking Skills
John Locke, the English philosopher, regarded considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Sir Francis Bacon, explained that learning was primarily understood through experience only, and that we were born without knowledge. Where knowledge is assembled through experience.
An essential discipline absent from schooling and further education, are fluid, creative and constructive thinking skills. It is simply not true that we born with the innate ability to optimise these thinking strategies. Yes, some are naturally better than others. But across the pool, most never get to realise their full potential. And that is another indictment upon education considering the new challenge graduates and school leavers face.
This absence stunts the fluid thinking skills of deduction, induction, inference, incubation and forensics. Deductive reasoning, for example, is a skill that needs to be both honed and supported with thinking strategies.
Creative and constructive thinking skills also need to be formally developed through practice with technique and tools. Synergism, lateralism, synetics, connectics, counterintuition, contradigms, cause and effect, and poke-yoke (Japanese for fool proofing) are thinking skills that are just not on the table in most schools and colleges in the west. And ask any youngster, what deductive reasoning or creativity skills and tool do you know? You might well deduce the answer.
Certainly, there are training courses and many books on these fluid thinking disciplines. But that often happens when school’s out. And that, after all, is after the fact. It is by no means too late. But it is much behind schedule when young students could do with such thinking skills from the start.
Edward de Bono, is a prime advocate of these kind of thinking skills. de Bono is one of the very few people in modern history who can be said to have had a major impact on the way we think resourcefully. His special contribution has been to take the mystical subject of creativity and, for the first time in history, to put the subject on a solid basis. The term lateral thinking was introduced by de Bono and is now so much part of language that it is used equally in a physics lecture.
In Venezuela, by law, all school children must spend an hour a week on de Bono programmes. In Singapore 102 secondary schools use his work. In Malaysia the senior science schools have been using Dr de Bono's programmes for the teaching of thinking. Siemens (370,000 employees) is teaching his work across the whole corporation. His work spans from teaching 7 years olds in primary schools to working with senior executives in the world's largest corporations.
He says that traditional (crystalline) thinking is to do with analysis, judgment and argument. In a stable world this was sufficient because it was enough to identify standard situations and to apply standard crystalline thinking and solutions. This is no longer so in a changing world where the standard solutions may not work.
There is a huge need worldwide for thinking that is creative and constructive and can design the way forward. Many of the major problems in the world cannot be solved by identifying and removing the cause. There is a need to design a way forward even if the cause (problem) remains in place.
de Bono has provided the methods and tools for this new thinking. His message: ‘thinking can and should be taught if we are to meet the needs of today's fast-paced and changing world… The earlier that children can be taught to think the greater advantage they will have to understand and assimilate other subjects.’
It is assumed that a person with a high IQ would necessarily be an effective thinker. This does not seem to be the case. Some people with high IQs turn out to be relatively ineffective thinkers and others with much more humble IQs are more effective. If IQ is the innate horsepower of a car then thinking skill is the equivalent to driving skill.
de Bono’s CoRT Thinking is a deliberate attempt to avoid the intelligence trap which occurs when a high IQ is not accompanied by effective thinking skills. To be effective, thinking does require an information base. But it is absurd to suppose that if we have enough information it will do our thinking for us. Only in very rare instances can we ever have such complete information that thinking is superfluous.
And this is where the education to learning paradigm shift begins. But there is much more here, particularly now we are building the systems and tools that are enabling the democratisation of learning.